SEATTLE — Veteran actor Tom Skerritt has more than 150 acting roles under his belt. Perhaps you didn't know that he helped start a film school in Seattle more than a decade ago.
TheFilmSchool is a non-profit that focuses on intensive training in screenwriting and producing.
Now TheFilmSchool has a new focus to re-think what screenwriting education can be. It recently partnered with the Washington Corrections Center for Women in Gig Harbor to provide screenwriting courses to its prisoners.
"I felt like this was one of the greatest ways we could give back to our community," said school Director Jonathan Keasey.
Led by TheFilmSchool's professional writers, the Prison Screenwriting Initiative gives a forum where prisoners can discuss films and draft screenplays. The courses are designed to be both a cathartic tool for healing and a job skill booster for prisoners about to re-enter society.
Award-winning writer, director, and producer Lindy Boustedt is the lead teacher of their new Prison Screenwriting Initiative.
"How can we reach out to voices that are marginalized and unheard and help them realize they can be the heroes of their own story? And they can write and use these screenwriting skills to make a film but also to learn how to write the story of their life," Boustedt said.
The course kicked off in April 2019. Students are about halfway through it. They're moving into the process of putting pen to paper.
"They're really starting to get the sense that screenwriting is not as easy as they thought it was. But they're jazzed. They're being very open and very honest while figuring out how to tell a story from their childhood," Boustedt said. "When you're writing a story, you have to understand all sides. I think that's a very powerful tool for these women. Sometimes just being able to put yourself in somebody else's shoes is a really powerful learning tool.
Skerritt says writing can be a useful tool in getting to know yourself better.
"Self-realization comes out through storytelling. With a piece of writing, you don't have to show it to anybody. Stop worrying about whether anybody is going to make fun of you for what you're trying to do," Skerritt said. "You just have to know you have something that is unique to you alone, because no one in the history of mankind has ever lived you."
Community support allows TheFilmSchool to provide scholarships for budding filmmakers, as well as to underwrite community outreach programs such as our Prison Screenwriting Initiative. Donations are 100% tax deductible.